Posts Tagged ‘torture’

Ill-treatment in custody

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Further to Yvonne’s post last week it is worth noting that the decision by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture to present an interim report to the Minister for Justice was a highly unusual step, one only taken when there is ‘a glaring example of where care is lacking’. In its report, which followed visits by the Committee to police stations, prisons, mental health hospital and, for the first time, an establishment for the intellectually disabled. The head of th delegation clarified that the substance of this report did not relate to overcrowding in prisons, but to specific issues of ill-treatment.
This statement from the ECPT (details of the visit available here) comes at the same time that the Mental Health Commission has revealed that it has written to three mental health facilities in the country to warn them that they may face closure if they do not address the ‘inhuman’ conditions which residents were being subjected to. The Irish Times reports,

The move follows visits by the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services which found that wards in a number of older psychiatric hospitals were “unfit for human habitation”.

Some of the harshest criticism was made of St Loman’s Hospital in Mullingar,

Two wards in St Loman’s hospital were in “poor condition and unfit for human habitation and should be decommissioned as a matter of urgency”, while other wards were “dilapidated, desolate and depressing”.
At St Ita’s, a total of 125 people were being forced to live in “appalling conditions” and it was “difficult to convey the extent of dilapidation”. “Long corridors in poor conditions, toilets with no privacy, paint peeling, mould in showers, broken furniture, ill-fitting doors, cramped dormitories, a smell of urine, poor ventilation and a bare drab environment were clearly evident.”

These two reports indicate the crisis state of the treatment of individuals in places of detention in Ireland. Ireland has long been criticised by the ECPT for its treatment of persons in custody yet the Government has not responded adequately. This highly unusual move taken by the committee, to submit interim findings, must be taken seriously by the Government. As Yvonne noted both the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish Penal Reform Trust have called on the Government to publish this report from the ECPT, but as yet, no response is forthcoming.

MI5 Head: Torture collusion claims undermine UK security

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, has today launched an attack upon the media storm swirling around the Court of Appeal’s decision on Wednesday to reject the Government’s arguments and order the disclosure of seven redacted paragraphs from an earlier judgment detailing the maltreatment of former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed (pictured left) whilst he was in US custody.

The maltreatment, which even the British Government admits amounts to repeated instances of at least inhuman and degrading treatment, was known to British authorities, who continued to supply questions to the US Government to use as the basis of their interrogations.

This state of affairs opens the government to two possible types of action, meaning that the Mohamed case is more likely the beginning than the end of the Government’s difficulties. Firstly, the Government already faces civil actions from a number of former Guantanamo detainees seeking damages arising out of further allegations of MI5 collusion. The first decision has already been handed down allowing elements of these cases to be heard in camera (Al Rawi (no. 2)). One of the reasons behind the government’s decision to stop fighting this case is likely to cut its losses in preparation for this coming legal battle.

Moreover, individuals such as Witness B, the MI5 officer present at some of the interrogations of Mohamed and who continued to supply questions even in light of his treatment, could face criminal liability (an investigation was launched last year). This would focus on the offence of torture provided by section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This provision, coupled with section 31 of the Criminal Justice Act 1948 which makes it illegal for public officials to act overseas in a manner which would break UK law within the jurisdiction, hangs like the sword of Damocles over members of the Security Service cooperating with the US authorities in the aftermath of 9/11.

The corrosive effect of such investigations on morale in the Security Service likely forced Jonathan Evan’s hand in his Telegraph op-ed, which focuses on refuting accusations of a cover up by highlighting that ‘[t]he material our critics are drawing on to attack us is taken from our own records, not prised from us by some external process but willingly provided by us to the court, in the normal way’.

Nonetheless, on the substantive issue of the role of British personnel in interrogations of those in US custody, he concedes that,

‘One shortfall it highlighted in 2005 and again in 2007 was that the British intelligence community was slow to detect the emerging pattern of US mistreatment of detainees after September 11, a criticism that I accept. But there wasn’t any similar change of practice by the British intelligence agencies. We did not practice mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.’

Despite this admission, in the penultimate paragraph of his piece Evans attempts to deflect some of the attention from his embattled officers:

‘For their part, our enemies will also seek to use all tools at their disposal to attack us. That means not just bombs, bullets and aircraft but also propaganda and campaigns to undermine our will and ability to confront them. Their freedom to voice extremist views is part of the price we pay for living in a democracy, and it is a price worth paying because in the long term, our democracy underpins our security.’

This claim misses the point. With or without a cover up, Irish history teaches us that blood tends to seep out from under closed doors. These events must remain the focus of public attention, for if they do not the British Government will not learn the lessons of the lack of oversight in the Security Service that Evans acknowledges. This is all the more important because Evans’s claim fails to appreciate that it is the malpractice itself which drives extremist propaganda, not the reporting of malpractice or the analysis of events in court. Indeed, it is the only process likely to satisfy the public that mistakes have been corrected.

Warning of the risks of providing propaganda to extremists by reporting the British Government’s failings smacks of the reaction to the Thatcher Government’s response to criticism of the Gibraltar killings or the attacks by members of the Bush Administration on Barak Obama’s release last year of the “Torture Memos”. The real problem for those implicated in all these cases not the reporting, it’s that blood sticks.

Private Companies and Extraordinary Rendition

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

dundeeI had the great pleasure last Friday to present a paper as part of the Scrymgeour Seminar Series in Dundee Law School. My lecture, entitled “Privatised Torture: Reflections on the Implications for Human Rights Law of the Emergent Phenomenon of Out-Sourced Torture”, has now been posted as part of the UCD Working Paper Series on Law, Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies on SSRN and is available for download here.

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Italy, Tunisia and the European Court of Human Rights

September 15, 2009 Leave a comment

ECtHRVia Statewatch comes news that the European Court of Human Rights is still battling with the Italian government’s penchant for ignoring interim measures under which the Court provides that applicants are not to be transferred to Tunisia pending the hearing of their Article 3 (torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment) claims.

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